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2016 U.S. Auto Avoider Study: Perceptions of Vehicle Reliability Increasingly Influence New-Vehicle Shopping Decisions

2016 U.S. Auto Avoider Study: Perceptions of Vehicle Reliability Increasingly Influence New-Vehicle Shopping Decisions

By Joseph Dobrian, January 14, 2016

Vehicle reliability has become a top consideration in deciding which vehicle to buy, and for the first time in nearly a decade, concerns about reliability have gained importance as a reason shoppers avoid certain models, according to the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Auto Avoider Study.SM

The study, now in its 13th year, examines the reasons consumers purchase, reject, and avoid certain models when they’re shopping for a new vehicle. The 2016 study measures shopping behavior among new-vehicle buyers who purchased during 2015. According to the 2016 study, 55% of new-vehicle buyers cite reliability as a leading purchase reason, compared with 51% in the 2015 study and only 48% in the 2013 study. Reliability is the third-most frequently cited purchase reason after exterior and interior styling. Reliability has also become a more-frequently cited reason shoppers don’t consider certain models: 17% in 2016 vs. 14% in 2015.

“Though vehicle reliability and durability have improved significantly over the years, they remain a vital consideration for consumers,” said Dave Sargent, vice president of the quality practice at J.D. Power. “With so many auto recalls in the news and challenges with the introduction of new technology, consumers are even more attuned to the expected reliability of new vehicles. This impacts which models consumers avoid and which ones they ultimately purchase. Bad news can tarnish an automaker’s reputation in an instant, yet, can take years to build back up. Automakers need to convince consumers of the true reliability of their vehicles so it is not a reason to avoid selecting a particular model.”

According to Sargent, “concerns with vehicle reliability can also have a ripple effect on other aspects of vehicle consideration and ownership.” The study shows that buyers who avoid models for reliability reasons tend to also have concerns regarding the model’s resale value, cost of maintenance, and safety.

As gas prices remain low, fuel economy has become a less frequently cited reason consumers select their new vehicle (51% vs. 55% last year). In fact, gas mileage has reached a five-year low as a reason to purchase a specific model. It is also cited less frequently as a reason to reject other models that were considered.

More than half (54%) of new-vehicle owners who replaced a vehicle bought the same brand or a brand within the same corporation, while 46% bought a vehicle from a different corporation entirely. Both premium and non-premium brand replacers say the top reason for not repurchasing the same brand is they “simply wanted to try something different.”

Key Findings
Following are some of the key findings of the 2016 study:
  • Exterior styling is the top reason shoppers buy a particular model (59%). It is also the top reason to avoid a particular model (31%), followed by the vehicle’s cost and interior styling (18% each).
  • Since 2012, new-vehicle buyers are considering fewer models and shopping fewer dealers. On average, buyers physically shop only three models, one of which they buy.
  • Avoidance of domestic models due to reliability concerns (24%) is nearly twice that of European (13%) and Asian (12%) models.


Consumer Tips
Based on the study’s findings, J.D. Power offers the following consumer tips:

  • Don’t rule out a model due to a highly publicized vehicle recall. In most cases they don’t indicate a serious ongoing problem with a certain make or model.
  • Stay aware of new model introductions from all automakers, even those you generally avoid, to see if they’ve changed their styling or have placed a renewed emphasis on reliability.
  • Research the offerings of automakers you haven’t previously considered.
  • If reliability is a concern, research vehicle dependability ratings for the models you are considering, and don’t immediately rule out a model because it had poor quality in the past.


About the Study
The 2016 U.S. Auto Avoider Study is based on responses from nearly 26,500 owners who registered a new vehicle in April and May 2015. The study was fielded between July and September 2015.

Additional Research:

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